A former judge who said the state’s controversial racial justice system should be scrapped is urging conservatives to “do something” about the court’s decision.
Lawyers for Alabamians charged with murder and other violent crimes in Alabama say the state has a “federalized criminal justice system that does not reflect the values of this state.”
The Alabama Supreme Court issued an emergency stay Friday to block the death sentence and other capital punishment sentences for 11 people charged with the 1995 murder of a man named George Byrd Jr., according to Alabama news outlets AL.com and the Clarion-Ledger.
The court said that it was “unfortunate” that the court had to intervene in the case because the death penalty is already “executed” in Alabama.
“The federal system is inherently unequal,” said Alabama attorney Mark L. Lohrman, a former federal prosecutor who represented the state in the Byrd case.
“This is not the first time that the Alabama Supreme Judge has used her judicial authority to strike down the state of Alabama’s capital punishment.”
The case has drawn national attention, and several U.S. states have imposed new capital punishment.
Alabama’s chief justice, who also served as a federal judge, ruled in December that the state could not execute anyone who was found guilty of a felony that could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lohrmann said Alabama’s “execution law” is “one of the most unfair in the nation,” and that it is “not constitutional.”
He said it “sends a message that you can get away with murder in Alabama.”
The decision came after the state Supreme Court ruled last year that prosecutors had a duty to prove beyond a “reasonable doubt” that Byrd’s murder was “the product of a hate crime” committed by a white supremacist.
The ruling led to a state law that banned the use of DNA evidence in capital cases, but the ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court.
The state law “does not eliminate the need for capital punishment,” Lohnman said.
“It simply provides an opportunity for the court to address the underlying problem.”